Co-curator Diane Irby talks up the 'INK 2' art and tattoo spectacle

More than skin deep

The second INK art show event, with visual art influenced by and relating to tattoo imagery, is upon us this weekend. It looks to be more international in scope, and just bigger and more fabulous in general than the first, which went down two years ago also in the Tangent Gallery. Over 140 artists have participated in the gallery portion of the event, with close to 200 works on display. The work itself is incredibly diverse and was done by an equal smattering of visual artists and tattoo artists. Friday features performances by hula-hooper Holly Linton, Satori Circus, and Lushes LaMoan. On Saturday, there's a Miss Ink Detroit contest, where metro Detroit's most beautiful tattooed bombshell is chosen by a group of experts (including our own Lee DeVito, who also has art in the show). We spoke with co-curator Diane Irby about the show.

Metro Times: What's the basic idea behind the show?

Diane Irby: The practice of permanently inking the body spans all cultures, religions, and lifestyles throughout history. INK serves to examine and celebrate the art, culture, lifestyle, history, anthropology, and sociology of tattoos — tattooing, and being tattooed. Being a fine artist as well as a tattoo collector, I thought it would be cool to combine tattoo-inspired art created by traditional artists, and fine art created by tattoo artists, into one gallery exhibition. By getting people from all angles of the tattoo industry involved, from ink suppliers like Eternal, to lifestyle apparel brands like InkAddict, as well some of the area's top tattoo shops and aftercare manufactures, along with the art collection and the best local entertainment around, we created this two-day event. The first show was in 2013. We didn't start off intending for a sequel, but after much encouragement from the fine art and tattoo communities, we decided to do it again.

MT: You mentioned that you're an artist yourself — how does that affect your curation?

Irby: I have my own idea of what the perfect aesthetic is in my mind. So, when I curate a group show that has a specific theme, then I have to put that aside and think what would other people enjoy as well. Whether it is my personal taste or not, I can respect what goes into a piece, and know that it will be appreciated, and hopefully put into a collection.

MT: Of course, the show is co-curated – who's this other guy?

Irby: Adam Owen Layne and I produced and curate this event. He was also my partner for Poisoned Apples, a Snow White themed art event in 2012. Adam and I are best friends and enjoy putting these together — even when it gets stressful because we get to talk to each other every day and we know we are good at this, and that the end result will be a huge reward. We have different tastes in art, and each have our strengths when it comes to different tasks, so it all ends up coming together in the end. Adam is also an extremely talented photographer. He is best known for combining whimsy and erotica to create often very funny, story-telling images. He also photographs and designs the yearly Satori Circus calendar and donates the proceeds to Burners Without Borders Detroit, the charity that Ink proceeds go to.

MT: How much work did you have to turn away? What was the selection process like?

Irby: The selection process was a tough one. We got 723 art submissions from all over the globe. We had to eliminate 585 to be able to fit the gallery space. It took days to deliberate. We carefully considered each submission to choose what the best fit was. In the end, I feel we chose what worked for our vision.

MT: Tattoos and tattoo art have of course entered the mainstream a lot in the last few decades. Do you have any thoughts about that?

Irby: I personally enjoy the look of a lot of visible tattoos. I'm really proud of my hand and throat tattoos. So I'm glad that there is more acceptance now than there use to be, and I believe that trend will continue. As more and more people are getting tattooed, that societal shift sort of has to happen.

MT: Can you tell us about one of your tattoos?

Irby: I like all my tattoos, so it's hard to decide. But maybe my favorite would be the one I got after my dad passed away. It's on my hand and wrist, of a bird flying being released from a cage. I don't think my dad was a very happy person; life seemed to have been tough for him. So this tattoo is a reminder to me that he is free from that now. It's kinda funny and ironic though, because my dad actually hated my tattoos. And now my most special one is the one I got for him.

INK 2 takes place at Tangent Gallery this weekend, Friday, June 5 and Saturday, June 6. General admission starts at 9 p.m. Friday, and 8 p.m. Saturday; 715 Milwaukee Ave., Detroit; VIP admission is $25, general admission $15. The event is 18 and older only. For more information, see

Mike McGonigal is music editor of the Detroit Metro Times.

About The Author

Mike McGonigal

Metro Times music editor Mike McGonigal has written about music since 1984, when he started the fanzine Chemical Imbalance at age sixteen with money saved from mowing lawns in Florida. He's since written for Spin, Pitchfork, the Village VOICE and Artforum. He's been a museum guard, a financial reporter, a bicycle...
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